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Jeremy's journal

We poets will write a thousand words to get at a single one.

Roberto Bolaño

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Wednesday, June 8th, 2005

🦋 Poetry blogging

Here is something I have never done: I am posting a poem which I wrote this afternoon.


So what about Jason,
Who throws up his hands in disgust
And cries, "I've been living a lie!"
As he flounces out of the room
To reclaim his truer self --
What are you his interlocutor
To make of this behavior?
Sit puzzled in his wake, pulling at your beard, mulling,
Muse: "Hmm, 'living a lie', I like the sound of that..."
Find a facet of your being in Bad Faith,
Some distorting mirror,
Imagine it cracked.

posted evening of June 8th, 2005: Respond
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Friday, June 10th, 2005

With regards to my most recent post -- The idea of writing poetry directed at a listener (who let's say for the sake of argument is me), asking him to consider a situation where he is talking to or watching somebody else and to try to imagine how he would react, or to suggest a possible reaction, seems pretty interesting to me, and like it might be a useful format to spend some time working on. Are there any good poets that use this format, that I could read up on?

posted afternoon of June 10th, 2005: Respond
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Saturday, April 25th, 2009

🦋 Meter, Imagery, Immortality

John Holbo's recent posts about "The Squid and the Owl" have been making me think about composition, and specifically about writing in meter. I don't seem to want to write metered poetry right now, but I think it is going to be useful to keep in mind the meter of my sentences as I write prose. Here is a fragment I came up with this morning:

The murky, sticky sediment of thought has not begun to calcify -- not yet, and I believe it can't while I still live. Fossilization takes millions of lifetimes, my Editor is scribbling, is why an archæology metaphor for investigation of your own consciousness cannot work -- and god forbid you should be so presumptuous as to picture actual future archivists tunneling down through your crystalline neural pathways! -- Don't take everything so damn literal I plead, and don't throw my rhythm out like that. Each discarded thought -- each day thousands -- some small rodent's skull, some hunter's artefact, some chitinous exoskeleton cast off and sunk into that dark, pre-conscious stew. As ages of decay and settling pass, this marsh is buried and will turn to rock, and I will no longer have anything to say. -- My current thoughts will crumble and be destroyed utterly (the Editor asserts). Future self, it's on you to dig into these layers of silt and to find these bones and graven images, if there is to be any evidence of me -- so it's on me to dig up and exhume young Jeremy, to see if any of him is worth preserving.

posted morning of April 25th, 2009: Respond

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

🦋 Lonely, immense

Here's a new line of attack for a problem that's been bugging me a little while; when I was reading The Stone Raft I was enchanted by the line, which Saramago attributes to Unamuno, "Fix your eyes where the lonely sun sets in the immense sea." Haven't had any luck figuring out where that line came from, if he's quoting an actual Unamuno poem -- I don't know what the Spanish being quoted (in Portuguese, and then translated) is, and the English does not seem to match up with any existing translations...

Tonight I had the thought, why not try writing something with that line as a starting point, and taking as read that it was from a poem of Unamuno's... A first try (and assuming this line of inquiry bears any fruit, some more updates as time passes) below the fold.

posted evening of October 18th, 2009: Respond
➳ More posts about The Stone Raft

Monday, April 26th, 2010

🦋 Odiseo en Nicaragua

Pablo Antonio Cuadra's poem "El barco negro" (in Poets of Nicaragua) inspired me to buy the book Songs of Cifar and the Sweet Sea, which is Grace Schulman's selections and translations from Cuadra's Cantos de Cifar, because I was so dissatisfied with White's translation. A really powerful poem, but the translation is nothing at all...

Well: the book arrived in the mail today; I'm looking at it and enjoying Schulman's translations by and large. But her selections not so much: she did not include "The black boat." Rats... Ok, so here is my first attempt at a translation of a poem.*

El barco negro

Cifar, entre su sueño oyó los gritos
y el ululante caracol en la neblina
del alba. Miró el barco
    fijo entre las olas.

    —Si oyes
    en la oscura
    mitad de la noche
    —en aguas altas—
    gritos que preguntan
    por el puerto:
        dobla el timón
            y huye

Recortado en la espuma
el casco oscuro y carcomido,
(—¡Marinero!, gritaban—)
las jarcias rotas
meciéndose y las velas
negras y podridas
Puesto de pie, Cifar, abrazó el mástil

    —Si la luna
    ilumina los rostros
    cenizos y barbudos
    si te dicen
    —Marinero ¿dónde vamos?
    Si te imploran:
    —¡Marinero enséñanos
    el puerto!
    ¡dobla el timón
    y huye!

Hace tiempo zarparon
Hace siglos navegan en el sueño

    Son tus propias preguntas
    perdidas en el tiempo.

The Black Boat

Cifar, inside his dream he heard the cries,
the ululating conch out in the mist
of dawn. He saw the boat
    fixed among the waves.

    —If you hear
    from the darkness,
    the middle of the night
    —on high seas—
    cries, cries that beg you
    for the port:
        turn your tiller back
            and flee

Outlined in the raging surf
the boat's hull dark and eaten away,
(crying, —O Seafarer!—)
the broken rigging
swaying and the sails
black and rotting
            (—O Seafarer!—)
He held his ground, Cifar, he clung to the mast

    —If the moon
    lights up their faces
    ashy, bearded, jinxed
    if they ask you
    —Seafarer, where you going?
    If they implore you:
    —Seafarer, show us the way
    to the port!—
    turn your tiller back
    and flee!

They set sail long ago
They're sailing for ages, in the dream

    The questions are your own
    forgotten in the ages.

...A different selection of Cuadra's "Cifar" poems (an objectively better selection since it includes "El barco negro") is on offer at Pelele's blog, Muchacha Recostada. Also the whole book is online at

* Wait no, that's wrong. So, the next attempt in an extremely infrequent series of poetry translations by Jeremy.

posted evening of April 26th, 2010: 4 responses
➳ More posts about Poets of Nicaragua

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

🦋 Composición y traducción

Versos sin sentido

por Jeremy Osner

Esas palabras se dicen a mí mismo
Como los ecos que vibranse entre las nubes
Pero también debéis escuchar, escuchad
al voz de vuestra Diosa propia.
Cuando vos sentís familiar me decid.
Vamos mañana tal vez al paisaje de nuestras ilusiones
o a una ruina postapocalíptica similar, nos
desaparezcase la iglesia, la iglesia de los padres, la iglesia de ayer.

from Criminal

by José Cárdenas Peña

If only it were just the scream
the water's scream,
the rolling stone
abandoned, with no place to lay its head
against the storm.
If only it were just
the wound, corrosive wound,
the nameless passage,
flow of dead time:
the soft procession of the hours,
sentinels of fear.
If only it were the handful of herb
the herb which mates with blood
winnowed through memory
now it can say:
it is over,
the statue, the labyrinth,
angel's shadow, world which never is.

But behind this silent
anguished nostalgia,
behind you yourself
o wounded shadow who calls me,
swells the violence
the destruction over cliffs
over conquered ragged armies, ashes, dust.
And still I know the damage,
in this moment of my hapless lineage;
this ghost or god who from my birthplace
from my rubble rises up
this dove of the final flood,
and around me your words
your tongues of fire
baptismal conch
pouring out on your mirror of drunkenness
handful of naked salt
of biblical questions:
the mud, the signal, seed of man
your voice, your name, your sorrow;
the shape of just one tear
wept out for the dead
for fallen moorish idols
blood which teaches me to feel,
who cannot catch it, fend it off
as the sky fends off his luminous abyss,
the sea her piscene stigmata.

posted evening of October 28th, 2010: Respond
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Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

🦋 Dream Pillow

by J Osner

Sinking into the warm black pillow of night. I’m dreaming
Masks, new faces, costumes I will wear
Internally, so I won’t know myself,
My face, my clean white tablet lies
There on the pillow looking up at me.
So paint! Draw crazy patterns on your cheeks;
Sculpt horns and wild protuberances, scars
Where your clean virgin skin is lying smooth.
Add blemishes and warts around your mouth,
Sprout tufts of wiry hair beside your nose --

just let yourself go,
make a May Day parade
of masks:

We’ll set them up
For all to see
We’ll let you know
Which ones will work,
Which ones will trick you out obscenely sinister unrecognized and sneaking stealthy sliding past the doorways of your ego lurking dark around the alleys of your childhood memories;
And when I've gone to sleep I’ll see
My costumed armies waiting
And the desolation staging
Where they play.

posted morning of May 11th, 2011: Respond
➳ More posts about Dreams

🦋 Archæology

Below the fold, something that might become a first paragraph of a longer piece. I'm sort of wondering if it's worth pursuing; if you have any reaction to the piece I would be interested to know what it is. I'll post a comment a bit later concerning where I'm thinking about going with it; my hope is that its rhythm will grab the reader (or a particular few readers) and make him/her/them want to come along wherever I am going with it.

read the rest...

posted evening of May 11th, 2011: 3 responses

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

🦋 Image and meter

Here are a couple of poems I have written recently. Experimenting with story-telling and with prosody.


The best-laid tracks converge, they meet
way out there by the setting sun
confounding engineering dreams perspective in the desert
where the train runs off the vanished rails and crashes, yes,
it's tragic, sad-sack Sam the goldrush pioneer will never see his lover
who was riding west to meet him, look how Jesse and his outlaws
are confused, the hold-up won't play out, they may just ride their horses over the edge behind the train or else perhaps they'll turn back just in time, they'll skirt impending doom and spend their days retelling stories of the one that got away.

Crystal Armies

Fit the image to the meter
We can print it when you're done
When the armies that you're dreaming
Wander sleepy off the page and
Wave their effervescent banners
    To the rhythm of your drum.

Marching softly, scarcely there,
You have to strain to make them out
Their dusty footprints on the pages
Almost like a printer's error
When they finally encamp
Inside your thawed out cerebellum
They'll build ghostly fires and sing
About the journeys of their fathers
And you'll scratch your forehead wondering
(In your clarity of vision)
Where the simple, crystal image
    Of your verbal armies went.
I'd like to thank Pelele of Muchacha Recostada, who has posted what I believe to be a great poem, Mutilaciones (from 2009) -- my working definition of a great poem is one the reading of which alters how you read and write poetry -- I believe that "Mutilaciones," with its frantic, driving meter and its clarity of vision, will have a permanent effect on my reading of poetry and on my poetic output. "Crystal Armies" is written strongly under the influence of Pelele's piece. I'm working on a translation of "Mutilaciones"* which will be my first time (even dreaming of) translating a metered poem -- I do not think I am going to be able to keep the rhyme, but the meter is coming through very naturally.

* Update: translation is here.

posted morning of June 11th, 2011: Respond
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Sunday, June 12th, 2011

🦋 Liberating constraint: ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘

The basic metric unit I've been thinking in poetically's the pæon, tetrasyllable with one stress on the third: and subtly varying the beat count and the emphasis, occasional cæsura, I find it stretches out the thoughts that I come up with and allows me to continue, to connect ideas that I'd not been aware of at the start. This basic pattern of stresses which I've been working with (and which I felt a shock of recognition at seeing confirmed in Pelele's piece the other day) is opening up new ways of hearing my thoughts. Two poems that I wrote yesterday venture a little further afield rhythmically; today's theme is dreams and transitions.

Fuzzy Punctuation

The dreams which I was just inside
come back to me, they give my day
unasked-for structure, so the friendly
stranger walking by on Broadway
smiling beatifically
is in some sense a page from last night's dream-book
(though he doesn't know it)
and he'll stay with me:     be
smiling through my day's transactions,
follow to my office, he'll be
watchful as I give my notice,
end another chapter
of my life-book, and his visage
in my dreams and in my waking dream,
illuminates this bland transition,
lifts me up -- his dark brown moustache
serves as fuzzy punctutation,
marking off this minor epoch,
leading on, betokening
the job search that's to come.


You can't escape your dreams, the old man said,
and I was not sure what to counter with,
I smiled shyly, hemmed and hawed
and joked, I don't imagine I'll be needing them
where I'm bound, I was going for a reference
to film noir, but it came out more sincere than I intended,
piss-poor irony, the old man said Don't worry,
I remember what you're going through,
I'm sure that you'll pull through until tomorrow. --
Then what? Felt a chill, to hear him use that ugly word,
the one that I'd been dreading,
but he laughed, and clapped me on the back, and winked,
and said that I'd be fine.

posted morning of June 12th, 2011: 1 response

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